Timothy was a young gospel preacher whom Paul loved and trusted very much. Several times in his letters to him (1 & 2 Timothy), Paul refers to Timothy as my son, or my true child in the faith. Though he was a grown man, Timothy was much younger than Paul, and so Paul's instruction to him often seems to take on a fatherly tone. Many of us have been blessed to grow up under the guidance of Christian fathers, and even more of us were able to partake of strong Christian influence from a friend or relative. Whatever the case for each of us, we need to pause often to express our appreciation to those who have properly steered us in the way of righteousness.
Paul's first letter to Timothy is addressed to him in Ephesus, where Paul has left him for the purpose of teaching and strengthening the church there. Apparently, some in that place were teaching doctrines contrary to the truth, and Paul's legitimate concern over this matter is clear in his opening words of the letter, instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines...(1 Tim.1:3). Then, just as now, the temptation was strong among some to take a less-than-diligent approach to maintaining the purity of the teaching which was declared at first by the Lord... (Heb.2:3). In Ephesus, as had been the case among some of the Galatians, there were those who sought to teach a different gospel, (Gal.1:6). This was just one of the problems that Timothy was charged with tackling in Ephesus, and as a young man with a challenging task before him, he no doubt benefited greatly from Paul's instruction and fatherly advice in this letter.
One passage in this letter especially stands out, illustrating Paul's kind but firm inspired guidance for his young protege, 1 Timothy 4:12-16 -
"Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you."
For the next few weeks, we'll delve into this passage and examine several lessons that we can draw from Paul's words to his young associate. The four points I have in mind for us to examine are taken from notes that I've jotted in the margin of my Bible, no doubt gleaned from someone else's work, long enough ago that I've forgotten the identity of their source.
Though Timothy's youth was certainly a factor in Paul's advice to him, this young man was no stranger to the work of teaching and strengthening the church. The time he had spent with Paul on their missionary journeys was no doubt full of both intensity and joy as Timothy learned first-hand from the old master. We, too are able to benefit from his advice as well, as we allow the inspired word to come alive in our hearts.
Continued next week...